By SmartyPants Editor Caroline Fontein
For years, it’s just been you and your fur baby. Now that there’s a little one on the way, how do you break it to your best friend? Having a baby is an exciting time for the entire family, but the patter of tiny feet bring changes for everyone – human and canine alike.
Dogs rely on predictability and routine. So, the unfamiliar sounds and smells of your newborn, change in schedule and everything else that comes with being new parents can be stressful and even scary for your canine cohabitant – not to mention you. Fortunately, by following our tips below, you can make this introduction a positive experience and help create a loving lifelong bond between your new baby and your pup.
Tips for bringing home a baby when you have a dog
While You’re Pregnant…
Nest for your pet
Taking time to set up the ideal living space for your new family won’t just give you peace of mind. It’s good for your pup.
Dogs thrive on routine and sudden changes to their schedule and surroundings can cause stress and behavior issues. To help put your pup at ease, don’t wait until the last minute to rearrange furniture for the nursery or set up the new crib. Instead, let your dog have time to investigate and adjust to their new surroundings long before your baby arrives.
Spend time around kids
Help prep your pooch by letting them spend time around kids early on in your pregnancy. Try bringing your dog to a park or setting up a playdate with friends or family who have kids. This is a great way to let your dog preview what’s coming. It will also help give you an idea of how your dog will respond to the newborn chaos to come and determine if there are any behavioral issues that you need to address now.
Be the alpha dog
Speaking of bad behavior. We know your favorite tail wagger is probably a perfect angel. But any little misbehaviors you overlook now may not be as forgivable when you have a newborn at home. Even the sweetest dogs can be unpredictable, according to thebump.com. The good news is, nine months is more than enough time to work out any bad behavior and establish yourself as a pack leader, according to renowned dog behaviorist Cesar Millan on cesarsway.com. You may even want to enroll your pup in obedience classes or get a professional to come to your home. Your future parent self will thank you for the work you put in now.
Protip: Forget the old adage. You can teach an old dog new tricks. The key to success is making gradual changes to your dog’s routine, according to the American Kennel Club on akc.org. By doing this before the baby arrives, your dog can learn these new rules without associating them with your newborn.
Crank up the baby noises
No doubt you’ll be getting more than enough of the real deal soon. However, exposing your pup to the sound of a crying baby, rocking swing and other unfamiliar noises now will help prepare them for what’s to come, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Make hearing and reacting to these sounds a positive experience for your pup by giving them treats and/or turning this into playtime.
Don’t forget about the dog
It’s about a month before your due date, and you’re probably busy trying to plan for EVERYTHING right now. Don’t forget about the dog. Now is good time to start coordinating who is going to walk and feed your dog while you’re in the hospital. Make sure you have enough food, treats and any other supplies on hand to ensure a smooth transition with the new sitter.
When you’re in the hospital…
Bring home that new baby smell
To help ease the introduction before you get home with the new baby, have a family member bring home one of your baby’s first onesies or blankets for your dog to smell. This will help your dog get used to your baby’s new scent before you actually arrive home.
After the introduction…
Help your dog embrace the change
Now that you’re back home with your baby, get ready for some serious tail wagging. Everything is going to feel new again for your pup. So, it’s reasonable that your dog might act out. But this is no excuse for them to develop a new bad habit. Instead, they need direction from their fearless pack leader (you) on another way to act that will make them happy.
You can help your dog refocus their energy and acclimate to the new family dynamics by encouraging them to be a part of your new routine, according to the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on aspca.org. Instead of telling the dog to to go away, try talking to and giving lots of love and attention to both your newborn and your fur baby. Treats (for your pooch) will help too! Your dog will appreciate feeling included, and all that talking will help your baby’s budding communication skills. Plus, by giving your dog lots of positive reinforcement when the baby is also up, it will teach your pup to look forward to this time together and help build a lasting lifelong bond between the two.